a perfect sober weekend (# 85)

This is a bit of an odd weekend as my kids are with their dad AND my husband is out of town. On the one hand, that’s too bad because it’s beautiful here and there is a fun local music festival going on. It would be fun to be enjoying this with my husband. On the other hand, I have throughly loved every minute of flying solo, and I have accomplished much , even while indulging myself in many activities I like to do.

It has been especially good, because I know it will be a sprint to the end of the year. This might be my last chance to deeply relax. So, let’s recap . . . and catch a glimpse of me in my natural habitat under the influence of nothing stronger than my own whims and interests. . .

Friday Left work at 4:45 p.m. to meet two of my best friends for drinks. I am far enough along in alcohol freedom that it doesn’t bother me when I am with people who are drinking. In fact, I realize that I actually have more fun, feel more present, and am able to leave invigorated and ready to switch gears instead of itching for more drinks. I had an NA Becks and some iced tea and soaked up late afternoon sun on the patio, instead soaking in several margaritas. After the drinks, I headed over to an outdoor tango event. This summer I have not done a lot of tango. I’ve been focusing on yoga instead and thinking about what role I want to give tango in my life, given that it will be a smaller role than it was when I was single. But last night was a great opportunity to dip my toes back in that water. Except for the fact that we were tangoing with mosquitoes, as much as we were with each other. I was home by 9 p.m., where I talked to my husband on the phone, web surfed and read.

Saturday  Woke EARLY naturally. (It was 5:00 a.m.) Instead of cursing my inability to fall back to sleep, I felt excited to have a couple of  bonus hours in the full day ahead of me. I read some more and worked on a photo downloading project necessitated by having had to get a new phone last week. Got laundry going, picked up the kitchen, had breakfast, and started watching a documentary. And that was all before 7:45 a.m. when I headed to the yoga studio for a 45-minute meditation followed by a 75-minute flow class. Home again, where I finished the documentary before heading out to shop. I had to get some groceries, as well as few things, including clothes hangers, at Target. Last weekend, I embarked on a massive three-closet overhaul but ran out of hangers before I could properly finish the job.

Came home. En route I discovered a podcast called “Dr. Death” and immediately got hooked. The story involves a multiple messed-up back surgeries by one messed-up doctor in Texas. As a former medical malpractice defense attorney, I find this topic fascinating–it’s about more than just one bad egg, it’s about the failure of the medical establishment to stop a surgeon like this in his tracks before he harms many patients.

After finishing the closets, I talked to a high school friend on the phone, then headed out for a 2.25 mile run around 6:30 p.m. More photo stuff, some light cooking (vanilla-cardamom-pear compote to eat with yogurt and tomato-mozzarella salad) a phone chat with my husband, and sound asleep by 10:30 p.m.

It was a quiet day, with very little social interaction, but it was peaceful and productive.

Sunday  Woke at 5:00 a.m. naturally, again. More futzing around with photos on my computer. Mostly deleting hundreds of bad selfies, I am embarrassed to say. I biked over to coffee shop a little after 8:00 a.m. to meet a friend from grad school (almost 20 years ago!) who was in town for an event. He and I caught up for about an hour, and then I went to a yoga barre class before biking to yet another yoga studio for ecstatic dance from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Home again for lunch and great deal of laundry folding and another appointment with Dr. Death. Thankfully, all the clothes had places after the closet job. Cleaned up the bathroom and scrubbed the slightly nasty kitchen stove top. Showered and walked over to yet a different coffee shop where I did a little research related to our new soon-to-be store and wrote this blog post. Soon, I will walk home, and then bike to yoga flow, followed by meditation/yin. I will be home by 8:30 p.m. to get ready for the work week and unwind before bed. Tomorrow morning I will be fresh as a daisy and back on the yoga mat at 6:00, before work.

Phew! I am taking really good care of myself this weekend (and taking care of my family too, by doing all this house stuff, even though no one is around). This is marvelous and made possible primarily by the complete and total absence of alcohol from any of these proceedings. I felt centered and able to make good decisions from hour to hour, in which I balanced my personal desires for entertainment, friendship and movement with my needs to get certain specific projects done. There was time for everything I wanted to do, and then some.

I have gone into all this exhaustive detail about my activities because I am really pleased with myself. I want to bottle this feeling! I LOVE the difference between this kid-free weekend and kid-free weekends of the not-to-distant past. Typically I would feel a bit hungover or sub-par on one of the days. I would still squeeze a lot in, because that’s my style, but I would let house stuff slip, for sure. I would not feel such surges of energy nor would I feel true peace.

Also, when I was between marriages I HATED spending any time alone. I would either be with my boyfriend-du-jour (or going on dates), planning my schedule around tango, exercising, or generally finding someplace to be. I would go to bars alone, I would go dancing alone, if I had to, just to be around people and combat my overwhelming fear that life and love would pass me by if I did not get out there and stay out there. I had no ability to sit still and just BE WITH MYSELF . . . and all my feelings.

For a while I had a certain boyfriend who had a terrible habit of canceling plans with me whenever he was freaking out about his own shit. It was a true push-pull dynamic between us, deeply unhealthy. When he pulled the last-minute bail move, as he often did on a Sunday afternoon, I would freak out — mostly because I was utterly unprepared to spend any unstructured time alone. Looking back, it was pretty pathetic. If I had to spend unplanned alone time, I did not embrace the opportunity to get other stuff done. Instead I would mope and obsess and stress and generally let everything go all to hell.

Life is so different now. I feel happy and secure with my partner, my husband. We spend a lot of time together, but when he is away I embrace having time for myself. I keep busy, but I don’t spend all that energy I used to expend putting myself in the path of strangers (i.e., men), adventure/experiences, and, many, many times, alcohol. I was always seeking to escape myself and my situation and propel myself into something new, no matter how meaningless and un-nourishing it was.

I am grateful for my perfect sober weekend and for this sweet life I am creating. Better late than never.

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“each of us has to cut our own key” (# 81)

This essay, “The Problem That Comes After Your Drinking Problem,” is worth reading. I relate to this writer’s experience and her idea that we might each have to cut our own key to break out of the alcohol trap. In her case, as mine, the issue is not that the drinking was that much compared to the rest of society. The issue is that alcohol addicts. Any amount that, through no fault of mine, leads me further and further away from the life I want to be living is too much for me.

I find the idea of leaving the herd empowering.

I have always been independent minded and a person who enjoys thinking critically about social norms that many others accept at face value. I am not afraid of being different. I prefer not to conform. Thinking of quitting alcohol as choosing to living outside the herd really works for me.

Basically, I am comfortable being outside the herd, as long as I am being true to myself. That was true when I was a little kid walking home from school alone with my nose in a book, instead in a pack of other kids. Even when I was drinking I would not say I was happily part of a herd. That’s never what I was looking for in alcohol, exactly. I was most often looking to be taken out of myself or to feel myself, intensified. I wanted to shake myself up like a snow globe. I wanted to feel even more wild and free, for a moment.

But I can say for sure that when I came to rely on drinking more and more as part of a normal day, and not as a splash of special sauce, I was not being true to myself. I was fitting myself with a crutch that my spirit never actually needed. The crutch was crippling me.

Alcohol, on the other hand, was behaving totally true to its type as a highly addictive substance that invites progressive use. Alcohol was leaching my inner strength from me, making me sluggish and less adventurous, much less willing to strike out in the pathless woods.

I am so happy to be running free from the herd again, listening for my own heartbeat and feeling the wind in my hair.

Check out this song by Birds of Chicago . . . Remember Wild Horses 

Remember wild horses running

Oh! With the morning in their eyes

Ears pinned back on free land

Under free blue skies . . .

trading spaces (# 70)

It has been an interesting time. The summer is hurtling to its end, and the rest of the year will pass even more quickly. I am excited because changes ahead will move my attention away from analysis and toward action. The analysis has been necessary, but I do not want to stay stuck here.

After not getting the job I wanted earlier this summer, I embarked on a lot of soul-searching about whether to keep trying to leave my job or whether to try to improve it from within. I finally found some peace around my decision to stay put and improve it. And, of course, life goes on no matter what I decide to do about it. Last week I found out there are some changes coming at work that are not necessarily quick fixes for me, but that happen to be aligned with my vision of what my job could be. So, I am interested in sticking around to see what develops.

Out of the blue, a headhunter contacted me about two other possibilities that sounded pretty good, but I quickly decided not to pursue them. I was able to see that those opportunities would likely offer more money, but they would offer me a lot less of the main thing that I have zeroed in on as most desirable: autonomy and flexibility around time. Happily, my current work does not suck up my time and energy with demands by other people to put out fires. My last job required this on a regular basis.

The very day after I settled the headhunter situation, my husband got some amazing news, and the whole picture of the next phase of my life beyond this summer of regrouping clicked into focus. Before I met my husband, he used to own a store (several incarnations of the same concept) for about fifteen years. He has not had a store since 2007, and he has been longing to start one while doing other things, including selling materials wholesale and doing creative work.

The problem has been finding a suitable space. He only needs a small one, and they are hard to find in our growing city.  In the last several years, he has explored several spaces that didn’t work out. He thought about giving up on the retail dream altogether, but could not let it go. He wants to try something different from the stores he had in the past, and he has thought a lot about how to make it work.

Then . . . this week, the landlord of a storefront that my husband has had his eye for more than two years called to say the space will be coming open in November. It’s a great location just a few blocks from our house, on a street with other independent businesses and restaurants. It’s just the perfect size, and it comes with basement space where my husband can keep his equipment and do some of his creative work. My husband jumped on it.

I should interject  here that a specific reason I took my low-key job 16 months ago was to have more time to work on creative ventures with my husband. We like working together and make a good team. Up until now, our partnership has mainly involved making jewelry and selling it at local festivals, which we have done a few times each year. We have also set up a website as a possible online alternative to the bricks-and-mortar store concept. That website is still pretty barebones, but we did bring it into being together. Anyway, both the jewelry we make and the website dovetail with the new store concept, and both will be important as we move forward.

It looks like we will be opening a store sometime in November!

I won’t be quitting my day job, instead I’ll be feeling grateful for a job that allows me enough freedom to participate in the birth of this store. The other jobs I had been considering would not allow such freedom. They would be challenging and stressful.

I am also feeling grateful that I chose to stop drinking at the beginning of the summer, because that making that choice opened up the space in my life to bring in something big and new and allow my creative energy to flow. At this time, I have succeeded in stepping out of the ever-shrinking space where alcohol was sprawling out, talking too loudly, and getting way too comfortable. I feel relieved that I left that dark space freely and fairly cheerfully, before alcohol bound me, gagged me and took me hostage.  I do not want to return there.